If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and put in the the time, hand grinders can have many advantages over electric ones. This article will help you find the best manual coffee grinder in 2018.
But before we get to that, why would you even want a manual coffee grinder over an electric one?
Manual Coffee Grinder Pros and Cons
The advantages of a manual grinder are:
- Price. The best hand coffee grinder can give you a surprisingly good grind consistency – you’d need to spend a few times its amount for an equivalent electric grinder.
- Noise. A manual coffee grinder is quiet, perfect if you’re an early riser and don’t want to wake anyone up.
- Reliability. Because of its simplicity, a hand grinder will last you a seriously long time.
- Travel. Because of its small size, you can travel with a few models.
Of course, there is a trade-off to enjoy these advantages. These are:
- Time. A manual grinder will take you a few minutes to grind a fine espresso, instead of the seconds it takes an electric grinder.
- Effort. And for those minutes, you’ll need to use some elbow grease.
If you can live with the time and effort involved, a hand crank coffee grinder could be the perfect option for you.
How Well Do Manual Coffee Grinders Perform?
Whatever your preferred coffee type is, a consistent grind is essential for good coffee.
If an espresso grind has lots of dust (too fine grinds), they’ll either pass through your portafilter and into your shot, or it will cause clumps in your puck. This stops water from reaching all areas of the puck, leading to a weak espresso shot.
If it has lots of boulders (large grinds), water will channel through the gaps it causes, again making a weak espresso.
Dust in your French press will either pass through the mesh filter and into your coffee, or it will clog it, making it harder to press. You can break a part of of your French press this way, it can spill, or the increased pressure can cause the filter to tip, making more grounds rush into your coffee.
Burr grinders are designed to give the best grind consistency, so the best hand coffee grinder will be equipped with a set. Grind consistency is well above something you’d expect at this price.
The Best Manual Coffee Grinders Reviewed
In a line: A very popular hand grinder. With modification, it becomes suitable for French press users.
The Hario Skerton uses a precision burr grinder made of ceramic. This makes it tougher than stainless steel – unprecedented for a grinder at this price point. This will last you a very long time indeed.
It’s easy to clean, with no difficult nooks and crannies for stubborn grounds to hide.
Objectively it gives a fairly consistent grind, but once you factor in its price, its an amazing grind for the money.
It does have a limitation though – it’s only really good for espresso. It doesn’t grind fine enough for Turkish or Greek coffee, and it loses its consistency when you hit the upper levels on its grind scale – its a little inconsistent when trying to grind French press or percolator coffee.
However, there is a fix for this. Orphan Espresso have made an upgrade kit for it which will give the coarse end of the grind scale the same great consistency. The trade off is that it loses its espresso consistency.
Once modded, it becomes the best manual coffee grinder for French press.
So if you drink only espresso, the Hario Skerton is fine as it is. If you drink only French press, upgrade it. If you drink both, maybe buy two grinders and install the upgrade kit on one.
The Hario Skerton is the best hand coffee grinder. In fact its so good, its precision burr assembly is actually used in the rest of the manual coffee grinders. It’s perfect if you’re looking for something cheap, simple and reliable.
Tip: If you don’t want to put in the time and effort it takes, you can even modify it to be operated by your power drill!
In a line: Saves kitchen space.
The Hario Mini uses the same burr grinding gears as the Skerton, giving it the same great features but also the same limitations.
It’s easier to adjust the coarseness settings on the Mini than it is the Skerton – simply tighten or loosen the nut at the bottom of the grinding unit. Because it uses the same burrs, its not suitable for French press either.
The compact form of this makes it easier to travel with, but it also makes it harder to grind since it’s smaller to hold.
- The Hario Mini can be found on Amazon here.
In a line: Vintage design.
The Hario Canister, again, uses the same burrs as the Skerton. Great for espresso, but not so great for French press.
This is the best manual burr grinder if you want something which looks as good as it grinds.
- The Hario Canister can be found on Amazon here.
In a line: Best ‘wooden box’ grinder.
Using the same burrs as the Skerton, the MM-2 gives great performance with espresso at an affordable price. It has a very cool wooden box to collect your grounds, making it the best hand coffee grinder for those who enjoy nostalgia.
- The Hario MM-2 can be found on Amazon here.
In a line: Shatter-proof.
The futuristic looking Porlex JP-30 appears to have the same burrs as the Hario’s – at the very least it gives an almost identical performance with the same limitations.
With its different design, it has some additional advantages and disadvantages.
Its all stainless steel body makes it shatter-proof – you don’t have to worry about dropping this one. It feels tougher, but also lighter than the Hario.
It has a narrower body, which means holding it during operation is a little more difficult. But the arm has less give which makes it a little easier to grind.
Its slim design also makes it a little more difficult to pour in your beans.
This is the best hand crank coffee grinder if you’re concerned about dropping it.
- The Porlex JP-30 can be found on Amazon here.
In a line: Best for travelling and camping.
Like the Porlex JP-30, this also seems to use the same burrs, and has an all stainless steel design.
The added benefit of this is its size – it’s much smaller, even more so than the Hario Mini. This, combined with its durable construction, make it the best manual coffee grinder for camping and travelling.
Bear in mind though, its small size will make it more difficult to hold and fill.
- The Porlex Mini can be found on Amazon here.